Tuesday, 02 June 2015 16:28

American Horror Story: Anti-Flag dishes on its new album

Written by  Dwayne Hoover
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If you have ever contemplated debilitating world issues like war, greed and corruption and thought, “We can do better that this” — you’re not alone. That’s what Anti-Flag has been preaching for more than two decades.

The Pittsburgh-based punk-rock outfit has never been a band to shy away from the difficult political discussions. The band prefers to meet them head on with tenacity. Even the cover art on its latest album, American Spring, while attempting to portray a feeling of change and rebirth, sparked serious debates on the acceptability of its imagery and the perception of what it represents.

“We looked at the flower and how the flower placed over top of people’s faces gave an image of violence to people when violence wasn’t really there,” explained drummer Pat Thetic. “We had a friend who came into the office and we showed him the picture of the Muslim woman with the [flower] over her face and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s interesting.’ Then we showed him the picture with the police and the soldier. He said, ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’  We wondered why you can do it with this person, but not that person.”

The band’s makeshift study on how ingrained violence is in the American culture is just one of many sensitive subjects tackled on the American Spring LP. It also touches on income inequality, class war and drone strikes. Though, some dark, personal turmoil also inspired the disc.

“Our bassist, ‘Chris #2,’ he and his wife divorced. It was a really ugly divorce,” Thetic said.  “It was that, in conjunction with his sister being murdered five or six years ago. There was no justice for his sister because the guy got off. Going through that experience, and then watching young black men gunned down in the street — there was also no justice for these people who were being killed by the police. That really came together at that time when we were writing songs for the new record.”

Not only was personal tragedy coloring the tone of the music, but according to Thetic, so was the lack of societal improvement and promised political change.

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“We had an Obama Administration where we thought there was really going to be change,” he said. “Now we’re in this position where there are drone strikes all the time. Guantanamo Bay is still open. This is not what we bargained for.”

Even with the ominous vibe this album carries, Anti-Flag still believes in “change.”  The band recognizes the power of a collective voice backed by people who are willing to take action. “We live in a world where people tell us about how shitty things are all the time,” Thetic said. “But we are optimists. We believe things don’t have to be this way and if enough people feel this way we can get them to change.”

On its last couple of records, the band had decided to get away from its previous practice of including a lot of additional information with the album, given how accessible information is in this digital age.  But they decided to revisit this concept with American Spring, hoping to reach those who might otherwise not be exposed to these ideas. Included in the album’s liner notes are essays and a list of websites and organizations the band supports. It also contains write-ups by the band members, adding insight and context to their music.

“Ultimately, a three-and-a-half-minute rock tune is not a very good place for political discourse,” Thetic said. “But it is a great place to inspire people to feel a certain way or to know that the feelings they have, other people have. That is an incentive or catalyst to get all of us to look deeper.”

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